Movie Poster
Johnny Mnemonic
Robert Longo
Keanu Reeves, Dolph Lundgren, Tikeshi Kitano, Ice T, Dina Meyer, Udo Kier
98 min.


Okay, so this doesn't really match up to the other classics that have occupied this coveted seat. But a movie doesn't really have to be all that good in order to be a classic. And no matter what you think of Johnny Mnemonic, it is certainly a classic in one way or another.

High on the list of most underrated movies of all time (mostly because it is so often placed so high on the list of worst movies of all time), Johnny Mnemonic really isn't half bad. It's a few crucial steps from being really good, but it's not half bad.

Yes, Keanu Reeves is a bad actor. Yes, he is worse in this than he usually is. Yes, the graphic representation of cyberspace is pretty amusingly dated. Yes, the action scenes are filmed without tension or excitement. But, damn if it isn't bizarre.

Keanu's acting and the almost surreally impotent fight-scenes actually fit into the world of the film. A sort of cybernetic wasteland where the people are about as alive as the various bits of technology they have had implanted into them. Certainly, a justification doesn't make bad acting somehow not bad, but the acting really doesn't stick out. It doesn't pull you away from the interesting parts of the movie unless you make a conscious effort to look for bad acting.

Really, only Keanu is bad (okay, Keanu and a handful of others). The film shows its short story roots in that there are really no characters who aren't integral to the plot. And some of them are really good. Takeshi Kitano (okay, I'll be honest, even though I liked Johnny Mnemonic I'm not sure what Beat Takeshi is doing in it) is great as the Yakuza lord. Dolph Lundgren is great as a cybernetically enhanced Jesus look-alike. I'll run that by you again: Dolph Lundgren: Bionic-implant Jesus. Its a great role and Dolph (He-Man) Lundgren plays it pitch-perfect. Throw in Henry Rollins (as a scientist!) shouting and Udo Kier looking like an old man (Andy Warhol's) Dracula, and you've got my vote.

But it doesn't stop there! The plot is reasonably interesting, though I'll be damned if I can remember any of its finer details, and Johnny and his lady-friend are saved by Ice-T and a dolphin. Ice-T lives on the ruin of a bridge. He's got a giant tank of water. In it is a dolphin. A sentient dolphin with half a metal exoskeleton that allows him to read people's minds.

While much of the dialogue is nondescript at best, some of the lines have a sort of mythic resonance. I will leave you with one to ponder on your way to the video store: "I want room service! I want the club sandwich! I want the cold Mexican beer! I want the 10,000-dollar-a-night hooker!"

Pat Jackson